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Gorges to hike and walk near Néa Alikarnassós, in Heraklion region

List of Gorges near Néa Alikarnassós

  • 9.0 km
  • Astrakiano Gorge
  • 11 km
  • 5 h

The Astrakiano and Kounaviano canyons are two verdant gorges that converge near Skalani village and empty out onto Karteros beach. The combined length of these canyons is roughly 21 km. Situated to the east of Heraklion city, these gorges are part of the broader Mount Jiouktas area. They offer easy walking trails, making them perfect for families and children.

The longer of the two, Astrakiano, begins at the Paliarda location in Kolomodi and extends to the area beneath the deserted Kato Astraki village, after crossing the picturesque Astrakiani Kamara bridge. From Kato Astraki, a brief trail leads to the Neraidospilios site, known for its stunning pond and gushing water caves.

The path along the Karteros river commences from this point, offering a lush green trail equipped with wooden bridges and railings. After crossing the Aitania bridge at Kaki Rachi, we reach Kali Rachi where the Astrakiano and Kounaviano Gorges, originating from Peza, merge. From Kali Rachi, the river continues to Karteros along a well-structured path. This section, known as Karteros Gorge, passes by ancient water mills and the historic Saint Nicholas Church (Agios Nikolaos). Near the Karteros gorge exit, at the Mesa Karteros spot, you’ll find an old inn and a second chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas. This location, accessible by car from Karteros, is an ideal picnic spot.

The Astrakiano canyon (Astraki – Kali Rachi) measures about 7km, with a hiking duration of 3-4 hours. The Kounaviano Gorge (Peza- Kali Rachi) is roughly 4km long, requiring about 2 hours for trekking. The shared section of the Karteros gorge (up to the second Saint Nicholas chapel (Kali Rachi – Mesa Karteros)) is approximately 6km.

The canyons’ route is abundant in natural, morphological, aesthetic, historical, and cultural aspects. The landscape boasts exceptional natural beauty, featuring springs, ponds, rivers, mini waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Prior to World War II, the canyon housed 10 watermills, and locals would fish for eels and crabs, some of which still exist today.

  • 10.3 km
  • Kounaviano Gorge
  • 4 km
  • 2 h

The Kounaviano gorge, known for its lush vegetation, is the greenest canyon in the entire Heraklion prefecture, serving as a verdant oasis in the heart of Pediada province. The gorge is named after the village of Kounavi in its district, even though it actually begins from the village of Peza, hence it could be referred to as Pezzano Gorge. This gorge is a tributary of the Karteros river and runs parallel to the Astrakiano gorge. The Astrakiano and Kounaviano gorges converge at the Kaki Rachi area near Skalani, forming the Karteros Gorge. Kounaviano’s entrance is situated at the northernmost point of the fertile Peza plain, collecting all the area’s water. It has numerous springs along its bed, some of which retain water throughout the year.

In recent years, the gorge’s trail has been marked and cleared, with the addition of small bridges, wooden railings, and informational signs. Walking along this trail is a delightful and easy experience, shaded by perennial plane, oak, and other trees. The riverbed walk is simple, without significant altitude changes or difficulties. At the gorge’s starting point, two small waterfalls can be seen. Old watermills, once used to grind the area’s cereals, can be found at three different points along the trail. This region has always been one of Crete’s most productive. Additionally, limestone kilns and various fruit tree gardens can be spotted. A walk from the gorge’s entrance at Peza to its exit at Kaki Rachi near Skalani takes approximately 2 hours.

  • 10.8 km
  • Almiros Gorge
  • 3 km
  • 1.5 h

Almyros Gorge, situated in Ellinoperamata, is the closest canyon to the west of Heraklion city. The gorge, a small oasis near the bustling city, is formed between Keri hills and the post-Minoan town of Kastrokefala. It serves as a crucial habitat, primarily due to the largest holly wood (Phillirea media) in Crete located on its eastern side. Other species like platan trees, carob, and wild olive trees also thrive here despite overgrazing.

The gorge has various names, such as Keri Gorge, named after the adjacent hill, or Almiros, due to its closeness to the Almiros river. It’s also called Ellinoperamata, the area where the gorge terminates. Frequently termed Porofarago, a common name for Cretan gorges, it’s also known as the Three Churches, in honor of the three chapels — Santa Marina, St. Antonios, and St. Paraskevi. Its commencement point near the Strouboulas peak gives it the Strouboulas name, while stories of Satanist assemblies and ghost sightings have resulted in its spooky moniker, the Ghosts’ Gorge.

Despite its proximity to Heraklion, few people have ventured here. Cars can reach the location where the 14th-century monastery of Agios Ioannis Farangitis (Saint John inside the Gorge), dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, was constructed near the canyon exit. The surviving chapel of Saint Marina was used as a cemetery, while the main temple was the present two-aisled chapel of Saint Anthony and Saint Paraskevi with significant frescoes. A little further, a shrine dedicated to Saint George can be found, and after nearly 1:30 hours of walking, the chapel of Lord Christ at the gorge’s starting point is reached.

The trail is lined with various trees, and the vegetation thickens as one ascends. Initially, the gorge is typically dry but transitions into a small stream during spring. While ascending, one can encounter three small waterfalls, which form at a site with a pinkish limestone hue after prolonged, heavy rainfall.

Almiros Gorge is a must-visit for adventure seekers and nature lovers. To reach this wild beauty, navigate towards the equally breathtaking Lake of Almiros. Located just a short distance from the path leading to the gorge, this lake is a wonder in itself. The lake’s crystal-clear water, flowing directly from the spring-fed mountain cliffs, offers an extraordinary view all the way to its bed.

  • 11.1 km
  • Agia Anastasia Gorge
  • 4 km
  • 3 h

The Agia Anastasia Gorge commences from Kenourgio Horio in the Pediada Province (at an elevation of 160m) and concludes at the coastal village of Gournes. It’s named after the cavernous chapel of Saint Anastasia situated near its entry point. The stream that flows within it collects water from the region east of Sgourokefali and originates near Agia Triada.

Its plant life mainly consists of oleanders and the gorge narrows at various points along its path. A descent through the gorge typically takes around three hours. Regrettably, the gorge has been heavily polluted by trash and waste from nearby sheepfolds. Despite ongoing appeals from hiking clubs to the Hersonissos municipality, the situation remains dire.

  • 12.9 km
  • Spiliotissa Gorge, Rogdia
  • 1.5 km
  • 0.5 h

A petite gorge forms to the west of the Rogdia village and opens up at the Paliokastro area. The journey begins from the ancient Koukos watermill, situated on the primary road linking Rogdia to Achlada, and takes you down to its most striking feature, the 10-meter tall Rechtra waterfall, which can be accessed through a relatively steep descent with ropes. As you traverse down the gorge, you’ll encounter several small waterfalls, the cave-like chapel of Panagia Spiliotissa, and finally arrive at the Paliokastro beach.

One of the most astounding sights is a cave situated right in the heart of the gorge, which has been converted into a studio for creating Christian icons by a hagiographer, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It is highly recommended to stop by this unique site, engage in conversation with the artist, admire the icons, and perhaps purchase a few.

You can also conveniently reach the fall by trekking up the gorge from Paliokastro.

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